My History in Dogs
Whippets Home

I did not grow up in a "dog" household. I started asking my parents for a dog when I was 12, but they were not keen on the idea. To prove that my interest was not a passing fancy, I spent the next 2 years reading all the books in the local library on dog behavior and training. When I was 14, my mother allowed me to take a beagle mix pup from a "free to good home" litter.

Not knowing about dog clubs or classes, I picked the book that seemed easiest to understand at the time and set about training the puppy. Looking back, I am appalled at the techniques I used on that 6-week-old puppy. When he was 3 years old, I read Leon Whitney's Dog Psychology: The Basis of Training and retrained the dog as if he'd never been trained before, using Latin words as cues. That book is about classical conditioning, and I learned how happy a dog can be when positive reinforcement is used.

However, the book did not go quite far enough, and I never figured out how to maintain the behavior without having food, so I continued reading training books. When the dog was 7 years old, after discovering another approach to training, I trained him from scratch a third time. By the time I discovered dog clubs and dog training classes, I was out of college and on my own, and that dog was almost 11 years old.

While in veterinary school in the 1980s, I developed a keen interest in puppy aptitude testing, which continues to this day. (Guide dog schools developed puppy tests in the 1950s in an effort to determine which pups in a litter were most likely to become successful guide dogs.)
I agree with the studies that have shown that puppy tests are not accurate predictors of adult behavior: management and training are far more important. However, I firmly believe that puppy tests provide insight into the inherited components of behavior and information that can help with puppy placements. I also understand that many of the personality traits that I value most, because they are associated with trainability and success in dog sports, are highly heritable.
My first purebred dogs were Rottweilers. I trained them for obedience and conformation exhibition, and I explored tracking and protection work briefly. Except for the training based on Dog Psychology, for all of my early training and my early years in organized dog sports, I used compulsive training methods (e.g., leash corrections, a chain collar, and verbal praise). The instructors at the clubs where I trained and speakers at seminars I attended in the mid to late 1980s all used these techniques. In the early 1990s, I abandoned obedience training because I became increasingly dissatisfied with the results: the dogs performed the behaviors, but I did not like what my dogs' body language said about our relationship.

In the mid 1990s, I attended seminars by Ian Dunbar and by Karen Pryor and Gary Wilks and found what I had been missing. My relationship with my dogs became vastly richer as the human-dog dynamic shifted from master-subordinate to a partnership involving the two-way communication that is possible with operant conditioning (a.k.a., clicker training).

The first whippets arrived in 1998, and sighthound lure sports were my main dog sport interest through 2004. In 2005, I returned to my foundation, one-on-one training, and started coordinating rally course work sessions for a local kennel club and training one of my whippets. In 2006, I started training for agility.

More than 20 years have passed since I discovered dog clubs. In that time, I completed veterinary school and graduate school, obtained certification in Animal Chiropractic (American Veterinary Chiropractic Association, 1994), completed training in veterinary homeopathy (Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy, 1996), and opened a holistic veterinary practice (now limited to small animal chiropractic).

I have been privileged to share my life with two "All-American" dogs, four Rottweilers, one Chesapeake Bay retriever, and nine whippets (14 if you count all the pups in my 2003 litter). I have learned unforgettable lessons, on multiple levels, from each dog. I look forward to learning many more from my current and future dogs.

Adele C. Monroe, DVM, MSPH

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Whippet puppy photo of GraceGift Paddle in th'Water, with plastic bag, by James L. Kramer
Photo of GraceGift Life is a Journey, in pink, by k-9 Photography

Updated 2006 April 23
Copyright 2001 - 2006 Adele C. Monroe, DVM
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